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Susan Hertog Education. (2012) 'Dangerous Ambition, Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson New Women in Search of Love and Power.'

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00:45:00

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480

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Thompson 8, Us 6, Dorothy Thompson 4, America 4, New York 3, Berlin 3, Europe 3, Rebecca 3, Dorothy 3, London 2, U.s. 2, Yugoslavia 2, D.c. 2, Washington 2, Cleveland 2, Whitaker 2, England 2, Vietnam 1, Virginia 1, France 1,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Susan Hertog  Education.  (2012) 'Dangerous Ambition, Rebecca  
   West and Dorothy Thompson New Women in Search of Love and...  

    January 1, 2013
    11:15 - 12:00pm EST  

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on november 6th, the war is by no means over, on the contrary. unless we keep in focus, unless we keep reminding ourselves of the stakes in this particular war are as great as they can be we are going to lose and it has nothing to do with whether there is another regulation of the bank's or whether taxes go up on the ridge or don't go upon the ridge. i don't say these are unimportant but the tactical intermediate measures involved in a strategic objective that i think barack obama is very clear about and is determined to pursue and god help us make it succeed iá
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those who don't love if hud has been emphasized with increasing intensity is the flaws. you have got several generations of kids who have been educated to believe that this country stinks, that it was born in sin and continued to be -- pursue
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evil objectives, etc.. that is why i keep harping on this issue. i still think it is the major issue facing us, and conservatives at least not of all stripes i have to say i the only force in the country that can be relied upon to -- at least i think stop it, this particular history, i think, we can yell stop and succeed because we can draw on the deepest resources of this country's tradition to fight it and if we don't nobody elt me b whitaker chambers. the fact thatvbeaembsálizr=mñat
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everything was against him and how enormous courage. and ultimately prevail. that is a lesson we can all work out. >> god forbid i should be thought to be denigrating whitaker chambers. he was a great man and "witness" is a great book, but i do think that he never dropped the other shoe and a fight against communism, rereading "witness," i have been struck by how much he resisted seeing america as good. you can say relatively, he said
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communism was absolute evil and i believe that. i would not say that america represents absolute good but i think it is pretty good compared to anything else. >> i would like to thank the panelists for a pretty good panel. melancholy though it was. >> every weekend booktv offers 48 hours of programming focused on nonfiction authors and books. watch it here on c-span2. >> from the twelfth annual national book festival on the national mall in washington d.c. susan hertick presents new women in search of love and power.
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[inaudible conversations] >> i am honored to be here at the library of congress book festival, but perhaps i am even more honored to having been introduced by the extraordinary man, dr. james billington, a great man and great librarian of congress. thank you. [applause] i will start at the beginning. as a child, and loved to read. in the midst 50s, like in the outer boroughs of new york city, in my case the bronx, was comfortable but provincial comments and my curiosity
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extended far beyond the bounds of my home and school. i wanted to know more about people in other places, what was happening in the world now, what had happened in the past, and quite simply how i came to be. books were my passport and i consumed them voraciously but i came to writing later than most, in my late 30s after having raised my three children. my generation, those of us born during and after world war ii, numbered in the millions and we were asking questions that demanded to be answered.
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we had come of age in the heat of the escalating war in vietnam and we didn't know why our brothers were fighting so far away for a cause that was so difficult to understand and the role of women in society was changing rapidly. my friends, educated with traditional values but a deep sense of personal ambition wanted to know how to be true to ourselves yet remain committed to our husbands and our children. as a young mother i had stumbled into a bookstore and got gifts from the sea from bargain shelves. it author, anne-marie lindberg,
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was struggling with the same question that we were asking ourselves. her answers were deceptively simple and yet they rain true and i wanted to know how this woman got so smart. and so, rising before dawn, i climbed the stairs to my third floor room, yes, dear virginia, a room of my own, read linda bird's work, to study its historical framework and to jot down my thoughts before sending my children off to school. my biography of anne lindbergh would take more than ten years
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to complete during which i had the privilege of meeting her ten times but the book was more than a biography. it was a journey toward self knowledge during which i developed a consuming interest in understanding the lives of women, not a only when thinkers but doers. women who were willing to enter the public fray and change the discourse. what were the qualities of person and mind, the values and loyalties of those women who succeeded and what did they have to sacrifice to bring their goals to fruition? while researching the lindbergh book two names kept cropping up.
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dorothy thompson, an american journalist, and her friend of 40 years, rebecca web, journalist, novelist, literary critic and historian. they epitomized the kind of when i was searching for. they played for high stakes, risking personal pain for public voice and influence. think of it. two generations before the baby boomers were born, these women had the courage to throw off conventions, be figdefy social
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expectation and catafalque themselves into the political arena comment and against the head wind of their contemporaries, they were ridiculed and with none of the safety nets we take for granted today and to compound their struggle, they had no family connections, no money, and fractured childhoods. let me begin with dorothy thompson, boring in 1893 through english/i ridge parents in a small bucolic town in northern new york state, she was the eldest of three children whose preacher father taught them first to love jesus, second, to
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obey the christian ethic, and third, to embrace the written and spoken word, in that order. but after the death of her mother when she was l.a. 8 years old everything changed. for two years, she helped take care of her younger brother and sister and catered to the needs of her broken hearted father. but when her father remarried, rebellious and precocious teenager was out on her own. after graduating from college, she cut her teeth as a spokesperson for the women's suffrage movement and during a short stint as a community
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organizer, she realized she was stated for a life beyond the bounds of cleveland and even new york. so in 1921, with $150 in her pocket, determined to become a foreign correspondent, she went to england with the desire to make her way through the wilds of fleet street. what is remarkable is that within five years she became the first woman to head 8 news bureau in europe, stationed in berlin, she saw a world in chaos
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and she hundred to understand the madness that seemed to be sweeping europe. the public and political upheaval after the great war, and the political landscape that was giving rise to ruthless dictators, she wanted to be a player and sheen is that as a woman she would have to fight harder, faster and longer than her male colleagues. she would have government officials, prime ministers, presidents and earned the reputation as a reporter willing to do anything and go anywhere for the sake of a story. thompson had the guts to ask her
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american public the questions they did not quote want to think about. mired in the dilution that they were protected from asian and european tumult by two aleutians, americans preferred the roar and affluence of the 1920s. ..
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has been frozen out along with national celebrity and the total federation of her peers, but it's constance grew and voice echoed across america and europe. just listen to this. in 1936 she was writing a thrice weekly column in the new york herald tribune that reached eight to 10 million readers today, and by 1937 she had received six honorary degrees from major colleges and
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universities and public radio broadcast on nbc had reached 5 million readers and she was rumored to be running for the u.s. senate. that was true but she was also thinking of running for president. in 1942 through radiobroadcast she would reach ordinary citizens in germany hoping to bring hitler down by convincing them that she would enslave them and free people are around the world.
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within a span of 20 years, she has gone from being a nobody, a community organizer in cleveland to a powerful international figure. but her personal life was in shambles. while she had been working in berlin in the early and mid 1920's, she had been swept off her feet by harry sinclair lewis, whom you know as perhaps one of the greatest writers of the 20th century and was seen to become the first american to be awarded the nobel prize for literature. he had already written mainstream babbitt and aerosmith and was about to publish gentry.
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she was drawn to him not only because of his literary brilliance, but because he was the saddest man she had ever met, and the preacher's daughter liked nothing better than to save someone's soul. he in turn was drawn to her strength, her moral core, herd driving energy and her unwavering ambition and her drive, but within a short time she realized he was an incorrigible drunk, and despite
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his own international celebrity, she could not bear her rising fame. rebecca west who have meant constant in 1921, whom jim spoke about in his introduction, and later when dorothy was the chief of the bureau in berlin was as courageous as her american trend, possibly more so spirits intent on breaking through that concrete ceiling of male dominated the literature and journalism they both were intent on confronting the pivotal issues of their time head-on,
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and they would remain friends of their lives. it was as humble as a beginning as dorothy. she was born sicily isabel on the a outskirts of london in 18922 space thailand mother with musical aspirations in a truly gifted journalist father when she abandoned them to poverty. she was both devastated and in the liberated. as angry as she was, she liked
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thompson was able to convince herself. naughty and rebellious ms. fairfield first tried to be an actress which was a terrible thing for a respectable woman to do but early on, she realized that her true passion and the devotee was the spoken word coming and she became a feminist journalist as a tool for initiating social change. by the age of 20, she had earned a reputation as a serious problem assessed, and by the age of 30, she was not only a journalist, she was a literary biographer, and novelist and a
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literary critic with a scathing reputation for 40 years took britain by storm. her writing come across every genre from fiction to nonfiction and the range of her knowledge was light and deep. she can truly be called a public intellectual in the sense that lionel trilling defined it. one who's writing lives at the crossroads of literature, the bloody crossroads of literature and politics and those like thompson was among the very first to receive the oncoming danger of not see devastation
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although by nature she was more of a moral philosopher and intellectual than a journalist like thompson, she nonetheless traveled alongside her banker husband as he was an emissary with a german bank and was commissioned by the british government to investigate and understand countries across eastern europe. on one of these assignments, she went to yugoslavia and the trip changed her life. from a distance, she could see the disintegration of british culture and its political
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committee at a time when great stakes are on the table with more clarity than ever before the result was her magnum-opus, black lamb and grey falcon, a political maturity and cultural history of yugoslavia and in her hands became a microcosm of trouble contention and conquest that ordered the face of syrup under the nazi siege. it was a 1200 page clarion call
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to arms meant to awaken her compatriots from the deep sleep of appeasement to the ruthlessness of hitler and mussolini and the devastation of the space ideal -- space ideal implied. but black lamb was one of just one of her 30 books along with hundreds of essays and articles she wrote during her lifetime in american and british periodicals. the new republic, the new yorker, "u.s. news and world report," the evening standard, the daily telegraph, the
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spectator just to name a few, in which she grappled with a dazzling array of issues that actually define the essence of life in the 20th century. democracy versus totalitarianism, nationalism versus the new internationalism, the legal and moral intricacies of punishing war criminals, the meaning of treason, the validity of christianity, and the silence of of god. but what was astonishing about rebecca west is she never went to the university. early on she understood that she was smarter and more capable
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than her classmates or even her children -- sorry, probably her son, but also for teachers. she was an autodidact that saw herself in the classical text of great philosophy, theology and philosophy managing to outperform and out class those of high birth and formal education. throughout her career, she was honored with mittal from america and france but her coo de gura -- came in 1959 when queen elisabeth awarded her the
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commander of the british empire for her contribution to the 20th century literature. now, how do we account for the success of these women? pure rall intelligence and dr.? certainly. but there were other smart and ambitious women. what distinguished thompson and west was their courage to jettison the constraints of the past, break rules, and forged the path for women in journalism and literature at a time of great political upheaval.
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their influence was of meshing a perception, character, dr. and the guts to speak truth to power at a time those cataclysmic in world history. in short, they felt an overriding sense of historical mission and they were willing to do everything to make their voices heard. but there was a danger in their ambition, a dark side, which is exactly why i named my book "dangerous ambition" triet it was certainly heroin but risky
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to throw away the rules and make new ones up on the fly. at the cutting edge of such change, they had no understanding of who and what they were sacrificing. so intent on achieving their goals, even when they had the slightest glimmer that they were quoting those they loved, they chose to turn away, caring more about humanity than those people in their personal lives. their relationships with men ended either in divorce or deep antipathy, and their sons
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feeling abandoned and alone spent much of their lives trying to bring them down. dorothy's son, michael lewis come herd come pensioners and ultimately failed marriage to sinclair lewis ways a lost and lonely young man who became white his father and alcoholic. she could never measure up to his parents' expectations. and although she had a gift for acting, he ultimately succumbed to philandering, destroying the lives of his wives and children. rebecca west's son, anthony
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west, was a product, and some of you may know this, of her decades-long relationship with h. g. wells, who now as you know, was one of the most celebrated authors in the english language at that time, whose legendary books are still read today. he was 46-years-old, married with two sons when they met, and west was a girl of 19 who was easily, and i might add willingly, seduced by his intellectual brilliance and rapacious sexuality. he had indeed -- wells had indeed met his match in rebecca. but each was as ambitious and
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selfless or does the other -- self of soared as the other but it quickly unravel. was their son anthony who would pay the price. caught in the middle, he pondered for love that neither one of his parents could give him. and though anthony himself was a gifted writer, she chose to siphon his creative energy by punishing his mother for his illegitimate birth. she came through his eyes a force of deception, corruption and mendacity. but it may be said that neither west nor wells nor thompson
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north lewis had the slightest notion of how to love one another for their sons. although thompson and west were flawed and in perfect hero wins, we are the beneficiaries of their legacy. undaunted courage, an indomitable energy, speaking truth to power regardless of its cost. they grappled with the great political and moral issues of their time so that we might harness and clarify their vision to me to the imposing in tangencies of our present. thank you so much for coming and
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for listening. [applause] >> if you have questions, we have to microphones on either side of the center section. please let us know if you have questions. ms. hertog is willing to answer them for just a few minutes. thank you. >> hello. >> you mentioned that thompson left for england with $150. really without any track record of any career in journalism. how did she actually break and in london? i know she became the first foreign correspondent, but how did she break the egg and get in? >> well, she went to the international news service and volunteered her services. she said don't pay me anything.
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just give me assignments and i will do whatever you want me to do. and i promise to bring back the story. and that's how she made her way into journalism, in to foreign correspondents. she was picked up later by "the new york post," and as you heard me say, she was syndicated in 180 newspapers around the country and reached eight to 10 million readers a day. but the answer to your question is by pure raw guts. she knew she could do it. she didn't care if she got paid for it. she knew she could bring that story home and do a good job.
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>> i'm curious about your primary sources. the story -- i was reading a book and the story of dorothy's mother passing. how did you research that and bring that to us? that was an amazing narrative and i just curious. >> i think you are speaking about the fact that her mother had a botched abortion at the hands of dorothy thompson's grandmother who decided that she had enough children, thank you, and she was poor as a church mouse because she was married to this creature who was a good man but wasn't bringing home the bacon. and there were all kinds of
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herbal concoctions, one of which she formulated and used on poor margaret, and unfortunately her mother died within hours. the fourth material was, as i say in my introductions, came from great researchers on whose shoulders i stand, particularly peter, who understood the story, who had gone through all the papers, and the people in the congregation had heard these rumors, and soon they came back
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to dorothy thompson. and she was mortified. i think that is partially why she became interested in the women's suffrage movement. she wanted to help give women the voice that her own mother never had. thank you. >> welcome if that's it, thank you so much. have a beautiful day. thank you for listening. [applause] this event was part of the 2012 national book festival in washington, d.c.. for more information, visit loc.gov/bookfest.
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de author of how to be black. how do you be black? >> it helps so much to be born black. i think that is the most reliable way of actually being black. this book doesn't comfort you
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from nonblack to black. it's not a modification program. is more of a moral and intellectual exercise and a sort of identity, storytelling and shiller ready. >> so what is one example of being black? >> well, the story of the book is mostly a memoir. i grew up in washington, d.c. during the crack war, in columbia heights before it got an occasion in the target. and that journey from a very political black power family and the legacy of my ancestors through the crack war and friends and harvard, that is the backbone of the book to read in there's lessons i learned along the way. how to be the black friend and they were to represent everybody that we may be look like, how to be the next black president is applicable in this particular season. this book has helped those lessons with some black experts that identifies who've been black their entire lives as well who really know what they are talking about.
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>> when you graduated from college and your mother said we did it is that an example of being black? >> that was an example of being a proud and broadly generous for what we meant. when she said that, i think she was talking both about our efforts as mechem herger malae older sister but also the people that came before us, and the stage that was set to allow somebody that is a descendant of a great grandfather born into slavery to the graduate from a place like harvard university with comedy and satire were get the union for years mocking the very government society that enslaved my ancestors is a huge part of progress and opportunity within that story i think she meant all of those things. >> what is your day job now? >> i don't have a job now. i am a bounder. i would love to start a company called cultivated witt that combines humor and technology to